Best Practices in M2M Communications
In a recently released Frost & Sullivan report, “Efforts of Independent M2M Service Providers and M2M MVNOs” was highlighted as one of the key drivers in the North American M2M communications market. While it is true that leading mobile operators have committed a significant amount of resources (platforms, processes, and people) for M2M, they may find it difficult to do justice to each and every emerging opportunity. For example, small-to-mid sized business (SMB) customers often struggle to get the full attention of large mobile operators, which is why M2M solution providers have been successful in providing remote connectivity services to the SMB segment. This is not to say that M2M solution providers are working exclusively with smaller organizations. In many cases, they have started to emerge as the preferred connectivity providers within the large enterprise segment. One such M2M solution provider is Aeris Communications (Aeris). Based on discussions with Aeris, the following key success factors for leading M2M solution providers were identified:
Adopt a “Solutions Provider” approach instead of a “Services Provider” approach
M2M customers no longer want to use services of a provider that sells airtime only. M2M is a complex market. It is appropriate to describe it as an amalgam of multiple technologies. Customers need a partner that can help them with all stages of their deployments – whether it is the choice of hardware module, application design, or integration with existing infrastructure. Additionally, professional services and operational support tools should be available to deliver a compelling customer experience. All of these areas need a partnership approach.
Purpose Built Network
Successful M2M solution providers have built a “dedicated” network for M2M. Ownership of network platforms – such as Home Location Register (HLR), Short Messaging Service Center (SMSC), Rating and Charging/Billing systems and others – can help M2M solution providers deliver a unique and customized service experience to customers. Additionally, any change requests (or modifications) into service parameters - such as changes to a rate plan or even the desired quality-of-service (QoS) may be easier to accommodate for such solution providers. Adding on M2M capabilities on top of existing consumer services framework may work fine in the short run, however, long-term success is clearly going to be a result of the M2M solution providers’ ability to help customers in a timely and effective manner (which comes from ownership of strategic network elements).
Flexibility and Ease of Implementation
M2M applications are unique and often vary widely in their requirements. The ability to accommodate new business models through customized pricing is absolutely critical in this industry. This does not mean that M2M solution providers should look to support hundreds of different pricing models. In fact, there are certain standard plans that can work well in most cases. However, the ability to create explicit plans that match different M2M usage patterns is an important element of any successful competitive strategy. In addition to basic usage rating, these plans need to recognize the unique supply chain needs of M2M customers. Customers require rating solutions that allow them to build their products, test them over the air, and distribute them without recurring fees. This allows an M2M customer to defer costs until there is offsetting revenue.
Putting it all Together (Formula for Success)
The key to success in M2M is to: a) have as much access (and control) to the network control channels as possible, b) understand the unique customer needs and the specific requirements of the M2M applications, and c) merging it all together to create innovative solutions. It is also about execution – customers want to get their product to market as soon as they can. Any or all processes that are part of M2M service delivery should be automated lest scaling should become an issue for the M2M solution providers. Leveraging best practices in application design and development is one way to achieve this objective.